3 Hidden costs of maintenance in software engineering

After months of hard work, your software is finally up and running.

But as you’re going through your finances, you notice that your monthly expenses haven’t gone down—if anything, they’re going up. What’s going on?

Do not assume that once the project has been developed, the expenses are going down to zero and they’re done paying.

That’s not the case at all, and it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s an analogy to explain the situation. 

Let’s say you upgrade from renting an apartment to buying a house. Would you assume that after the down payment, your mortgage will be your only expense as a homeowner? No.

Look at your expenses. 

Your water bill, gas bill, electric bill, and everything else will go up because your house is bigger than your apartment. You might have other expenses creeping up on you that you’ve never had before, like a gardener or a landscaper to maintain your property.

Software development is the same.

Whenever you scale up from a small project to a bigger project, there are certain expenses that you’ll incur on an ongoing basis. Everyone is so busy determining the development rates, they forget about the post-launch development costs.

Here are the top 3 costs of software you must anticipate after you launch.

1. Maintaining Your Staff

Who developed your software? The development team will continue to maintain your software even after you launch.

Your software is going to evolve with the market as new opportunities present themselves. The vision will also evolve based on customer demand.

You always need to remember one thing—stagnant technology is dead technology.

Look at companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and all of the other global giants out there. 

Everything you can possibly think of has been developed. So why do they have an army of engineers working behind them? Software development is never finished.

Between maintenance, new features, customer demand, and just scaling the platform, you’ll always need your staff to maintain this.

So you can’t plan to let your development staff go after the launch date. The team members who developed the app will continue to stay on board.

The truth of the matter is this; if you get rid of people, your software will slowly die.

Remember, to maintain a competitive edge in this crowded market, you must constantly evolve. The software you started with needs to change and adapt over time.

You might have some wiggle room with the capacity of staff that you need to keep. For example, maybe hired five engineers during development. But now you just need two or three. Your team will still need engineers, a QA professional, DevOps, a designer, project manager, etc.

These post-launch development costs must be taken into consideration and planned for ahead of time.

2. Hosting Expenses

You must anticipate hosting costs in your initial budget.

These costs are incurred from hosting the servers for your software. You’ll have email servers, push notification servers, analytics servers, integration servers, and other servers depending on the type of app you’re developing.

Most likely, you’re dealing with a company that delivers you a product or SaaS that you’ll pay a monthly fee for. Or you’re hosting the software somewhere in the cloud with a company like Amazon Web Services. There will be a monthly fee for this type of hosting as well.

Not only will you incur these expenses post-launch, but the costs will rise as your company scales.

It’s very important that you prepare for this from a budget standpoint. There will be ongoing hosting costs to maintain those hosts. If your servers are hosted in the cloud, you’ll still need a staff member on your team to deal with those servers. This brings us back to our first point about needing to continue paying your staff.

3. Maintenance

Before your launch, I’m sure you’ve gone through the technology to make sure that everything was working properly. All the bugs were found, fixed, and you’re done—right?

While you might have fixed the bugs for certain devices or specific operating systems, devices evolve over time. When this happens, your technology or application could regress.

Take a look at the average cost to maintain your software in the first year after launch.

Some of you probably know why software development is expensive. But why is it so costly to maintain? What are companies spending $10k-$25k+ per year on?

As new demands come from Apple or Google, your compliance levels might downgrade.

New legislation comes into effect for the quality, security, and privacy of your software.

All of these things could change – ADA compliance, International compliances, PCI compliance, HIPAA compliance – the list goes on and on. 

Your technology needs to evolve as all of these things change.